One of the longstanding methods for determining the likelihood of closing deals is the sacred Pipeline Status Meeting. At SBI we’ve sat in on thousands of these meetings. They typically occur once every two weeks, and last an hour. They are also a total waste of time—for you and the sales rep.
Here’s a synopsis of the average pipeline get-together:
Manager: “So what’s going on with this deal?”
Rep: “Uhh…They’ll probably close by the end of the month.”
Manager: “Why do you think that?”
Rep: “The guy told me they just needed a couple of weeks to get the funds together”
Manager: “Okay. What’s the likelihood of that happening?”
The manager asks a few more situational questions, and suggests a minor tactical change. Then he puts it into his forecasting spreadsheet. They move on to the next opportunity until they complete the top 5-10 deals in the pipeline.
The manager develops a cloudy understanding of the deals, based on the Rep’s subjective opinion. After the rep exits, we see managers adjust forecasts up or down while mumbling something like “he’s such a sandbagger”. It’s obvious the manager is still guessing. So, if you gain no insight, what’s the purpose?
Instead of coming up with Pie-in-the-sky projections while the clock keeps ticking, here’s how to drive real revenue:
- Segment all of the opportunities in your team’s pipeline into two categories: Must Wins and Nice to Haves. The Must Wins are deals that are crucial to your success for the year. Nice to Haves are smaller revenue, longer timeline, or lower probability deals.
- Now separate Must Wins by expected closure date: Those expected in the next 60 days, and everything else.
- During your next “Pipeline” meeting, ask your Rep to come prepared to speak on one Must Win Deal in the Next 60 days. This means arriving with completed sales process Job Aids, notes, and any other pertinent information on the account.
• First 10 Minutes of the Meeting: Ask the Rep to give you a high level overview. Question to gain understanding of the deal, but don’t interrupt their presentation of the facts. They talk, you listen.
• Minutes 10-30: Drill down into details. Here are some sample questions: Why is this deal in this stage of the sales process? What actions has the customer taken to indicate this? Who said that? What is their level of authority within the company? How do you know? Why do you have them forecasted to close at this date? Press them on “I don’t know” and “I think so”.
• Minutes 30-50: Give Sales Coaching on the Deal. Identify the blind spots and provide an honest assessment on the deal’s probability of closing. Fill out the Sales Process Deal Assessment aide with them to build a win strategy. Provide advice for next steps and agree on completion dates.
• Last Ten Minutes: Lay out the tactical methodology to accomplish these steps and put a hard date on when the rep should report back to you. Hold them accountable to this date.
Congratulations, you’ve just spent a very productive hour coaching the Rep on best practices and sales process. Now you increased the odds of winning, instead of guessing the probability based on the sales rep’s “feeling.”
Adopt this meeting as your standard procedure. Revisit the Must Wins in this new meeting format every two weeks and focus on rep development and deal strategy. You will close more deals and earn more. Only meteorologists get bonuses for accurate forecasts.
CSOs and Sales VPs, how are you currently spending the time in Pipeline meetings? Please provide your thoughts in the comments below.
When it comes to the end of the year, Hope is Not a Strategy. Provide the Sales Coaching and guidance your reps need to be successful. Hitting your number may come down to one or two deals. Why just report results when you can impact them? Sign up for the Make The Number Tour and get the tools you need to hit quota.